Amazing Women in Weed-Activist Ann Lee

May 15, 2024

Ann Lee-The Texas Weed Grandma

Before she was one of the most prolific cannabis activists of her time, Ann Lee was born in 1930 in Ponchatoula, Louisiana into a strict conservative and Christian household. Much is not known about her childhood and family, but growing up in the Jim Crow South, she witnessed many incidents of racism and the lack of her fellow Christians standing up for justice regarding the subject. From a young age, she knew she would be someone who would be a voice and stand up for those who were unjustly targeted. At the age of 17, she left Louisiana behind her and headed to Texas, where she studied political science at the University of Texas at Austin. It was here she met her future husband and father of her child, Rob Lee. Their son, Richard Lee, was born in 1964.

It was an accident in 1990 that left Richard a paraplegic and suffering from nerve pain and muscle spasms. His Republican, Christian, and staunchly pro-life parents surprisingly were extremely supportive when he told them after researching its efficacy, cannabis was the one thing that helped his suffering. Seeing the first hand results, this made Lee acknowledge the clear, medical advantage that cannabis provided.

While Lee has never smoked cannabis herself, she believes in fighting for the rights of others who will benefit from the legalization. In 2012, Lee and her husband became members of the Drug Policy Forum in Texas to advocate for legal cannabis. She still deeply believed in the core values of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and less intrusion in private life. She claimed that “prohibition is not conservative and goes against the fundamental principles of the Republican Party.” She believed that the government shouldn’t tell her “what I cannot use as medicine, that my Dr. and I think is best for me.” Lee and her husband were having a difficult time getting any footing, as a large majority of Republicans were still against cannabis legislation. The tipping point came in 2012 whe Lee and her husband attended a 5 person NORML panel, only to find 3 of the 5 panelists were Republican. This didn’t stop Lee though. “I will do most anything that’s not illegal, immoral, or indecent to promote this issue.”

It was the very next day the two of them founded RAMP (Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition) in favor of legal cannabis. Since then, they have fought within the state of Texas and even at the federal level for the legalization of cannabis. They favored regulation similar to tobacco and alcohol products, rather than it being criminalized. “It needs to be taxed, controlled, and regulated. It shouldn’t be available for kids to get to, but neither should tobacco or alcohol.”  In 2015, she testified in front of Texas House Committee of Criminal Jurisprudence in favor of Bill 2165, which seeks to repeal all cannabis offenses in the state. Lee is still alive today, in her mid-90’s, but tends to spend her time more privately.

Richard Lee, Activist

Growing up, Ann’s son Richard led an adventurous life. As an adult, he worked as a line tech for many musicians. It was at an Aerosmith concert in 1990 where he fell from scaffolding and broke his back. It was during his recovery that he found an article about cannabis’s efficacy for spinal cord injuries. He did not want to be a “Valium zombie” loaded up with medications and stuck in bed like so many other paraplegics were at the time. It was then his passion for medical cannabis legalization began. In 1992, he opened a hemp clothing store in Houston, called Legal Marijuana. The same year, he began his activism journey. In 2006, he was awarded High Times “Freedom Fighter of the Year” in Amsterdam. In 2007, he founded Oaksterdam University in California. It was the first “college” in the US to offer classes completely focused on the cannabis industry. Classes offered included horticulture, business management, extractions, bud tending, and entrepreneurship. He also opened a museum and dispensary, CoffeeShop Blue Sky.  He was a chief promoter for California’s Prop 19, a measure to legalize cannabis in California. While it recieved enough signatures to be placed on the 2010 ballot, it failed to pass by less than 5% of votes. While that was not successful for California, it highlighted the issue in the political mainstream. Soon after, Colorado and Washington legalized. In 2012, the University was raided by the IRS, DEA, and US Marshall’s. To avoid arrest and incarceration, he decided to give up ownership to all of his business. Not much information can be found on Richard Lee’s current life, but his legacy lives on. He is known as one of California’s most influential voices in legalization of cannabis and has even been the subject of a few recent documentaries.

While much isn’t available on what the two of them are up to today, we can hold onto the fact that they were instrumental in getting laws passed in California for cannabis legalization. Their legacies will live on for years to come.